Interesting hints on pronouncing the Urdu q

Think of a bird or a bottle.

From John Borthwick Gilchrist’s late 18th century The strangers East-India guide to the Hindoostanee, or grand popular language of India (improperly called Moors):

The q will be best attained, as I have often experienced, by lifting the root of the tongue slowly against the throat unruffled, in imitation of a deep liquid interrupted sound of water guggling from a vessel, with a long narrow neck, or as some authors remark, q is similar to the cawing of a raven.

I was actually trying to think of what you call someone who pronounces “emperor” “enperor,” apart from a Haitian, but never mind.

Similar posts

Last updated 12/10/2011

This post pre-dates my organ-grinding days, and may be imported from elsewhere.

Indology (1): Indology or South Asian studies is the academic study of the history and cultures, languages, and literature of India and as such is a subset of Asian studies.The term Indology or Indologie is often associated with German scholarship, and is used more commonly in departmental titles in German and continental European universities than in the anglophone academy.

John Gilchrist (surgeon) (1):

Kaleboel (4307):

Phonology (7):

Urdu (2):


  1. I adore the writing in that book. The first TWO sentences from the preface run thus:

    “Nothing can be so discouraging to the student of a living language in this country, as the chance of being, by future proficiency therein, under the disagreeable necessity of unlearning whatever pronunciation or lessons he may have acquired at the outset of his oriental career. Few of my readers, who are in the smallest degree acquainted with Indian affairs, need now be apprized that they will be exposed to the irksome situation I have just stated, provided they still prefer to this little volume the inaccurate and inadequate performances of my predecessors, as their guides to the Hindoostanee tongue.”

  2. That’s actually a really good explanation. I first managed to pronounce it long after getting comfortable with the French /ʁ/, and then attempting a stop, a plosive in the same place, which works OK. Of course I‘m not actually comfortable enough with any language that uses it that I can produce it at will in running speech.

  3. @Tom: Hit them with those USPs. Tho I suspect the cleansers will be here soon to slag him and all other Sanskrit-loving foreigners.
    @Aidan: I love it – it’s the kind of explanation that makes one want to try, as well as draw pictures and stuff the odd Corvus down one’s gullet.

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *